Thursday, December 31, 2009

Best Of The Decade - 5 - 1

And now for the final five picks of my favorite films of the last decade. What are we calling this anyway? The 00's? On to the films.

5. TEAM AMERICA WORLD POLICE - Good parody is rare these days. In fact the only place I still see true parody is on 'South Park' which comes as no surprise that Trey Parker and Matt Stone created the best parody, and one of the best films, of the last ten years. Making fun of one side is not parody. It's called defamatory. Parody is when all sides are made fun of. The powerful are held in check through comedy. The fact that this film is done in all marionette (with strings showing and all) makes it all the more hilarious. Making fun of right wing ultra military use and excess patriotism to left wing compliance and hypocrisy made this a film all sides got around. Every time I watch it I swear I laugh harder. And as a great parody it works on its own accords to be so entertaining long after the jokes have passed. Easily my favorite comedy of the decade.

4. STAR WARS EPISODE III REVENGE OF THE SITH -As a huge Star Wars fan I was pretty much predestined to love the prequels. It was easy for me to look past the lesser qualities and just concentrate on the story at hand. I admit it was hard (and exhausting) to constantly defend the first two. The third film though made most people see what George Lucas was building towards. As a young kid wondering what that fight between Darth Vader and Obi Wan Kenobi was like was nothing compared to how it is in the film. In a good way. Plus all of the nods to the original trilogy, especially A New Hope, made this such a treat. It marveled the adult in me while exciting the kid in me. I can't tell you how many times I've watched this and just love it every single time. We can debate the first two but not this one. It's just a great film. It's a Star Wars film in every true sense.

3. THE DARK KNIGHT -Talking about hitting me over the head with a stone. As mentioned earlier I loved the first film but was not ready for what this film was going to be. Not just a spectacular summer film in every sense of the term but an all around great film. It literally has drama, action, suspense, great characters. It's one of the few times I walked out of a theatre in the last couple of years and knew I didn't need the film to grow on me. This was a pure masterpiece and I knew I just saw an amazing film. Plus it's message about what it means to be a true hero is a very mature approach. Not something you find in your popcorn entertainment. A daring film as well as an entertaining one. I keep forgetting how good it is until I watch it again and then I remember how great films can be.

2. GLADIATOR -What a way to start the decade. I saw this film several times over the summer of 2000. I could not get enough of it. On one level it's a very simple film but that is why it works so well. It's richness comes from the characters. I've watched the film dozens of times over the years (even within the last couple of weeks) and the film has lost nothing. It is very much like the old epics of yesteryear but also a modern sense of drama and realism that brings it to life. A film I felt was so deserving of the Academy Award. And a devastating loss for Ridley Scott not winning for Best Director. If it wasn't for the next entry this would be my pick for favorite film.

1. THE LORD OF THE RINGS -On occasion you know you are experiencing something that is literally part of film history. When I first heard that this was being made I was like ok. When I read that Peter Jackson, a filmmaker I loved even though very few had heard of him, was doing it I became excited. I thought there is a perfect match. I knew he could do it. What I didn't know is how well he could do it. He created a landmark that is truly stunning in all aspects. This is what you point to when you say why movies are magic. This is true movie magic. Every aspect to it is just so amazing that I almost wonder how Peter Jackson pulled it off. I think I would have gotten lost but perhaps making it so far away from Hollywood he was able to basically have the entire production technically live in the world they were creating. I was not alive when such monumental films like 'Citizen Kane', 'Casablanca', 'Gone With The Wind', 'Ben-Hur', etc, were released. But I can say I was alive to see two modern examples of films that set a new benchmark and that would be 'Star Wars' and now 'The Lord Of The Rings'. Without a doubt it is my favorite thing done in the film world in the last decade. It inspires me as a movie fan, as a filmmaker, and as a historic landmark of cinema. Now this is how you kick off a new millennium.

So there you have it. My picks for my favorite films of the last ten years. What will the next ten years have in store for us? Who knows? Will one of my films be on anyone's lists? Hey, I can wish can't I?

Happy New Year everyone!! Thanks for reading the blog. All my best in 2010.

Best Of The Decade - 15 - 6

Continuing the Best of The Decade list. For the first part go here.

15. BLACK HAWK DOWN - Before Hollywood started showcasing our troops as crazy, stupid, unstable, and even rapists, they were shown in a brighter light in Ridley Scott's amazing film about soldiers being trapped in Somalia while trying to arrest two warlords. Based on the true events from 1993 the film captures both the horrors of war and the bravery of our soldiers. It is a very tense and honorable film and one that unfortunately hasn't been made since 2001.

14. INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS - What haven't I already said about Quentin Tarantino's marvelous film? His historic fiction is told with such mastery that it proves he is one of our greatest filmmakers today. A master storyteller. My favorite film of 2009 and one of the best films from the last decade.

13. SPIDER-MAN 2 - Sam Raimi was able to breath new life into the super hero genre with the first film. But he blew the lid off when he took it to another level in the second. I still say no one was better suited for this screen adaptation of Spider-Man as well as Raimi and this film specifically proves it. All the pieces fit together perfectly. The film stands on its own.

12. OLDBOY - Talk about offering something different. What at first appears as a revenge story with a slight twist turns into a revenge story with s huge twist. The ending can be perceived as either sweet or extremely sick but this is definitely a film unlike many others from the last ten years.

11. MAY - At some point, if not most of the time, a lot of us feel like outsiders. Something about us that makes us different. An awkward thing that in some ways helps makes us unique. Although that one thing can also separate us from the "norm" and this is perfectly captured in the character of May played to perfection by Angela Bettis. I know a lot of horror fans, both male and female, relate to the film (outside of its horror elements) because as horror fans we tend to feel like outcasts. Very few films can capture this better than 'May' and it easily makes it one of the best films I've seen over the decade.

10. SHAUN OF THE DEAD - Once again a horror comedy that knows how to blend the two worlds perfectly. This is just an outstanding film that is funny and even has some scares in it. It's also a romance and a buddy picture. The fact that it takes place during a zombie apocalypse is just icing on the cake.

9. KILL BILL - Quentin Tarantino's fourth film is quite a film. Although it was divided into two parts because it's running time was pushing four hours it works both as two films or as one big whole. A revenge story (how I love 'em) about a woman on search for the people that tried to kill her. No need to trying to explain it but this film offers two things. It shows Tarantino's increasing sense of visual artistry and his command of the craft of storytelling. A completely mind boggling tale which makes this two of this man's films to appear on my list. Keep it up Quentin. I am lovin' it!

8. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN - For those that know me or have been reading the blog for awhile then you know my love for this film. Part of the beauty of it is that I saw it fairly blindly in that I knew almost nothing about it. I knew of it sort of but nothing specific. In fact, it fell on a day when I was going to see 'My Name Is Bruce' with Bruce Campbell in person so that was the highlight. This was sort of the film we were seeing to kill time. Needless to say I walked away with a different highlight from that day. A different take on vampires only from a child's perspective and told with such a tenderness and so much emotion that I was and continue to be amazed by this film. An absolute masterpiece. I will champion this film as long as I am able because I think it is just that good. There was no doubt this was going on this list. The question was how high.

7. SIN CITY - Robert Rodriguez translated Frank Miller's book onto the screen and created an amazing experience. Shot digitally and mainly on green screens the entire world was created in the computer. This allowed the world to be exactly as it is in Miller's books. With stark black and white and the occasional use of color makes these sordid tales all the more powerful. One of the few times in the last few years when a film ended and all I could say was,"Wow."

6. ZODIAC - David Fincher was stepping back into the serial killer world for a second time only from a different perspective. The telling of the mysterious case of the Zodiac killer that traumatized parts of California for a decade unfolds as if you've never heard it before. The genius of the film is that the first half is basically the Zodiac's killings and the police trying to figure out who it is. The second half is about the pure obsession that a comic strip artist goes through to figure it out long after the rest of the world has moved on from it. Granted I have an inkling for films regarding obsession. I think I can be a bit obsessive so I tend to relate to it. Despite its three hour running time the film moves and is completely engrossing. This film has also inspired me in several ways between my last film and the new one I will be making this summer. The inspiration alone makes it worthy of one of my favorites but the fact that it is an incredible film makes it easily one of the top films for me over the last several years.

Onto the top five which you can see here.

Best Of The Decade - 25 - 16

And so begins my picks for the best films of the decade. These aren't so much the films that I feel best represent the last ten years. Nor are they the ones I think are the best all around. These are personal favorites. Movies that have reached me on some level and have remained with me. I'm sure a few will make you scratch your head while others will hopefully inspire you to see or rewatch.

I opted to go with 25 picks. I was going to do only 10 but there were enough movies that I feel deserve notice. While I don't think this was a great decade for movies there is no doubt we had some great ones and I wanted to acknowledge them.

These will be divided into three posts. First up are numbers 25 through 16.

25. POULTRYGEIST - Lloyd Kaufman and Troma have delivered what may in fact be Troma's best film (or at least on par with their best) but also one of the best social satires in the last ten years. It's also a horror film, a musical, a romance, and ... well, it has everything. A shining example of true independent filmmaking. This film just goes for broke and comes out a winner.

24. BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON - Horror comedy is hard to do. Especially when you run the chance of one outdoing the other. It tends to be more comedy than not. This film finds the right balance and is such an undiscovered gem of the last ten years. A documentary crew follows a serial killer around in a world where movie killers, and the tricks they play, really happen. The film is clever but doesn't end there. It is also very entertaining and one of the big surprises for me in the last ten years.

23. BUBBA HO-TEP - To say Bruce Campbell is amazing as Elvis is an understatement. This film is such an offbeat whimsical tale that it deserves to be seen to be believed. Director Don Coscarelli made an outstanding film and let Bruce Campbell give one of the best performances of his career as an aging Elvis in a home where the residents are being killed by a mummy. So he must stop him with the help of Ozzie Davis as John F. Kennedy. Yes. You read that right. Now go out and see it.

22. MIAMI VICE - Ok. Let the head scratching begin. Here is a film I feel got a bad rap. During the midst of the time when film versions of old TV shows was all the rage this one got included in the bunch when it shouldn't have. This was made by the original TV show's creator Michael Mann. He also happens to be one of the best filmmakers around. He made the film it's own thing and while people shrugged it off I think it deserves a second look as a good cop thriller. I've watched it several times and I love it more each time.

21. GANGS OF NEW YORK - I seem to be on the opposite side of the fence with this decade's Martin Scorsese. A lot of people sort of shot down this film but praised his later work especially 'The Departed'. I thought 'The Departed' was a mess of a film but absolutely love this one. Not sure if I'm missing something or other people are but I'm more than happy to say this is my favorite Scorsese film of the last decade.

20. REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA - A horror rock opera that has changed my life a bit. I love the film and the music to it. This film spawned shadowcasts all over the country (where people perform the film as it plays on screen) and yours truly is part of the Chicago group 90 Day Delinquents. I do Luigi Largo. In the process I have made several new friends and have an absolute blast doing it. To not have a film like this on my list would be a travesty. A film that makes me smile, created a hobby, and introduced me to new friends? Better believe it's one of my favorites of the decade.

19. GINGER SNAPS - Using horror as metaphor is one of the reasons the genre is so special. You can't really do that much with other types of films. This is a perfect example. Using the werewolf transformation of a young girl as parable for her becoming a woman. Turning in incredible performances from Katherine Isabelle and the always amazing Emily Perkins this film is one that really got to me. I may not be a young woman but those formative years of 15 and 16 any of us can relate to. And changing into a werewolf is probably the best metaphor around for those years.

18. SUNSHINE - Here's a film that sort of came under the radar. A science fiction tale from Danny Boyle that is a thrilling film as it is visually stunning. Our sun is dying so a ship is sent to deliver a bomb that will hopefully reignite the sun. Kind of odd because most people I know have had the same reaction. The first time you see it you think it's ok. Then it grows on you. You see it again and you like it more. The third time is usually the time when you feel like you love it. And I do.

17. BATTLE ROYALE - This film still hasn't been released here in the States. Some people claim it's because no one here wants to release it because of the content but I think it's because of rights issues. Either way it's worth seeking out. Every year a high school class is sent to an island and must not only survive but kill everyone around them. Only one student is to be alive at the end or everyone will be killed. The film is pretty ballsy and one that you don't forget. It has a dark sense of humor to it as well but also the fact that there is a Lord Of The Flies element to it where sometimes it doesn't take much for us to become blood thirsty savages. Although it does offer a glimmer of hope too.

16. BATMAN BEGINS - Talk about rebooting a franchise. Christopher Nolan not only gave Batman new legs but he redefined the genre is some ways. Giving the film a harder more realistic bent but still delivering on the hero front. How Bruce Wayne becomes Batman is told with such perfect storytelling that this just completely blew me away. This transcends the comic book film and is just a great film.

Onto picks 15 through 6 which you can find here.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Best Of 2009

I present my list for the best films of 2009 according to me. These are strictly my opinion and do not reflect on other people's opinions. You may notice there are only nine titles listed. Well, there is a very good chance this list will change slightly. I did miss so many movies this year and there are a few that have the potential to be on this list. So in the meantime a place will be left empty for whichever film that may be.

In the meantime here are my picks for the best films of 2009 out of the ones I've seen.


9. MY BLOODY VALENTINE - I love me my horror. And I love me my "fun" horror and this film is just that - fun. It's sort of a remake, sort of sequel, to the original classic. The 3-D in this film only enhances the fun factor. And I must say that the 3-D even at home is pretty effective. Especially on Blu-ray where the extra resolution makes the image a little more stable with the red/blue glasses. While it didn't reinvent the genre it did give it a fun 90 minutes which is not a bad thing.

8. UP - Can Pixar do no wrong? While not quite on par with some of their other titles 'Up' is still a very rewarding and emotional tale. Even early on as we have a sequence where we see the main character's life through a flashback it gets hard to hold back the tears. Especially if you've lived life a little. There is something true to Pixar's films which gives them such an emotional base. I think this is why they are so great. And 'Up' is no exception. Thank God!

7. WATCHMEN - While I didn't go gaga as much as some fan boys (or as angry since it's not 100% faithful to the source) I was heavily impressed by this film about an alternate version of our history if super heroes were part of our culture. Director Zack Snyder, after the 'Dawn of the Dead' remake and '300', knows how to speak the visual style of film. Visually the film is incredible. And while I think the message at times gets a bit awkward the film as a whole is an experience. And the character of Rorschach (played by future Freddy Krueger Jackie Earle Haley) is really incredible. If the whole film was about him it might have been higher on the list. The great thing though is this is one of those films that gets better every time you see it. It is one that'll be around for a long time. And deservedly so.

6. THIRST - Much like last year's outstanding 'Let The Right One In' this film offers a different take on vampires but much like that film looks at it from a more character driven perspective. A priest has an operation which creates the side effect of turning him into a vampire. His life starts to change and he lusts after a young girl who wants to become like him. A morality tale plus a little Lady Macbeth thrown in for good measure makes this another home run for director Chan-wook Park who also made the amazing 'Oldboy'.

5. DRAG ME TO HELL - It has been so long since Sam Raimi stepped back into his horror roots as a director. Some people were upset because the film wasn't disturbing. Well, Raimi likes fun horror. He delivers that here in spades. The beautiful Alison Lohman (what? She is!) plays Christine who denies an old Gypsy woman an extension on her mortgage which causes the old Gypsy to attack her and pay a curse on her which leads to demons harassing her and will eventually ... drag her to hell. Unless she can lift the curse. Many of Raimi's trademark styles are at play here and the film is just a lot of fun. You know you're in the hands of a master who is himself having a good time. So I sat back and joined in.

4. STAR TREK - I love Star Trek. I don't dress up in the uniforms and show up to jury duty but I do love the shows and the movies. I was a bit cautious with this reboot. The teaser trailer was cool but still I just wasn't sure. Well, I should have put my worries aside because this is one great movie. J.J. Abrams knew how to meld (pardon the Trek pun) the aspects of the original show and bring it to a new generation without alienating the original fans. While I feel the Kobayashi Maru sequence was not quite what I imagined when I first heard William Shatner talk about it in 'Star Trek II' the film as a whole is one giant entertainment. The kind we don't get enough of. The worlds of mindless entertainment and good storytelling can go hand in hand. Here is a prime example.

3. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY - The hatred I've seen from people over this movie. Why? Some people didn't find it scary. Ok fine. Why the anger though? I don't understand that. I for one found the film completely effective. Maybe I scare easily I don't know but I have seen the film (as of this writing) three times and each time I was freaked out. Sometimes all I need is a creaking door to get under my skin. Told in the first camera perspective (like 'The Blair Witch Project' and 'Cloverfield') of a couple who are being terrorized by a demon spirit so they decide to try and record the happenings. Made for around $12,000 and sold to Dreamworks this film also represents one of my dreams as a filmmaker. I'm sorry if you didn't find this film effective because it is for me and I am grateful for it. Well, I am when I'm not staring at a darkened corner of the room wondering if something is there.

2. TAKEN - I love me a revenge story. This one delivers. It doesn't try to be anything more than it is which is why I love it so. Liam Neeson plays a former government agent who is trying to reconnect with his daughter. She goes off to Paris with a friend but is kidnapped. Neeson goes off to find her and shows no mercy for the people that did it. The best scene in the film is when the girl is kidnapped as Neeson is on the phone helpless. One of the kidnappers picks up the phone and Neeson tells him they should let her go or else he's coming after them. The scene is both terrifying and exciting as we fear for the girl as she is taken and cheer for Neeson as he's promising to kick some butt. Now that is a father I like to see on screen.

1. INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS - I have been hearing about this film for years. Quentin Tarantino talked about this film when he was promoting 'Pulp Fiction' back in 1994. As many people who know him they say he talks a lot about different ideas for movies with very few of them ever leaving his brain. I feared this was one of them but not so. The story of a group of elite soldiers out to do nothing but kill Nazi's during World War II and of a Jewish girl who got away as her family was slaughtered only to have the chance at revenge. I am glad the film wasn't made when Tarantino was younger. I think the more mature Tarantino brings more to the film that his younger self couldn't. The film is a work of historical fiction but one where we almost wish the real war happened this way. It is an amazing film with fantastic performances and some more subdued conversation pieces which while are Tarantino are not like they are in his other films. The opening scene alone is absolutely amazing. Probably the best scene of any film I saw all year. And the film as a whole proves Quentin Tarantino is one of our best filmmakers today. This is easily my favorite film of the year. Thank you Quentin for not letting me down.

Almost There

Due to some work issues and, unfortunately, some minor health issues I am running late in posting my Best Of lists. I am finalizing them though. As a heads up the Best Of 2009 list will be a bit short. The Best Of The Decade list will be a bit long. I might even break it up into two postings. I will be posting them over the next two days. I know many of you are refusing to make plans for New Year's Eve until you know when I'm posting these. By all means exhale because they will be posted before midnight Thursday.

Just to avoid any possible issues just know that these lists represent my opinion only. I am not saying my opinion is more valid than yours. By all means I want to know what movies you like. Please don't waste your time criticizing my choices though. It only makes you look foolish and I have no patience for it. So meh.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Gory's Random Post Of The Day - Everybody Wants To Rule The World

Tears For Fears "Everybody Wants To Rule The World". The video is kind of weird but this is one of my favorite songs.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Movie Of The Day - A Christmas Story

A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983) d: Bob Clark

I'm going to go out on a limb and say ... this is the greatest Christmas film ever.

Merry Christmas

I just want to extend a very Merry Christmas to everyone. I hope it is a wonderful day for all of you and your families. Be thankful for what you have and please help those who are not as fortunate.

Probably my personal favorite adaptation of Charles Dickens'  'A Christmas Carol' was done by Disney called simply 'Mickey's Christmas Carol' made in 1983. The DVD came out recently and it's worth picking up. For those of you unfamiliar with it here it is in its entirety.

Merry Christmas and God bless us every one.

Movie Of The Day - It's A Wonderful Life

IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946) d: Frank Capra

A true classic that has gotten a little bit of a bad rap on certain levels. It's chalked up as cheesy or even dismissed because there was a time when it was played endlessly on PBS that it became almost nauseating. Luckily that was a long time ago and hopefully people will rediscover the film. It's considered a classic but it's sentimentality and its embracing of the goodness of people can be cheesy in the modern cynical times. I hope not because the idea that we do make an impact on people and our lives do matter is an important thing to share. It should also be one that is shared with all the joy and heartfelt emotion that goes with it. And sometimes old fashioned cheesy is exactly what is needed. Put your modern sense of cynicism away and just enjoy a good movie and appreciate the things you have. And remember no one is a failure who has friends.

Bonus clip. "What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word and I'll throw a lasso around it and pull it down."

Friday, December 18, 2009

RIP Dan O'Bannon

Dread Central is reporting that screenwriter and director Dan O'Bannon has passed away. He was the writer of such films as 'Alien', 'Blue Thunder', 'Dead and Buried', 'Total Recall'. Plus he wrote and directed the zombie classic 'The Return Of The Living Dead'. This is truly sad news. He gave us so many great films and he will be missed.

Here's a shot from his role in the John Carpenter film he wrote and acted in when they were both still in film school 'Dark Star'.

Review - Avatar

AVATAR (2009) d: James Cameron

One of my favorite directors (both as a fan and as a filmmaker) has always been James Cameron. Since I first saw 'The Terminator' back in 1985 I was completely impressed with the talent this guy had and followed him through today with his latest film 'Avatar'. Having not made a (narrative) film since 1997's 'Titanic' it has been a long wait. Many people have tried to do the kind of spectacular effects driven storytelling that Cameron can do but very few can. He is someone who knows how to use visual effects to tell his story without letting the visual effect tell the story. He is first a master storyteller and has always pushed the boundary of the effects business. It's why his films stand the test of time. At the end of the day the story remains. While the liquid metal of the T-1000 from 'Terminator 2' isn't as jaw dropping as it was back in 1991 the film still holds up because the story is just so amazing. Having watched the first 'Terminator' just a few weeks ago (blog post here) I can tell you it still holds up so well and still inspires me over 25 years later.

Now we have 'Avatar' his latest film and sadly to say, for the first time, I have mixed feelings. You have to understand I even like his first directing job film 'Piranha II The Spawning'. Unfortunately 'Avatar' is more akin to the films we've been getting waiting for Cameron to make another film rather than a James Cameron film.

The film tells the story of Jake (Sam Worthington) who is a Marine paralyzed from the waist down. His twin brother was part of an experiment where they take the consciousness of a person and place it into the body of a Na'vi. An avatar if you will. The point was to, at first, study them as is evident by the scientist who created it played by Sigourney Weaver. Since the twin brother has died they decide to use Jake as the fill in. Afterall, a lot of money is behind it. Not only the research to get it to this point but also the money to be gained from a rare mineral that is on the planet Pandora where the Na'vi live. The evil corporate guy (played by the usually fantastic Giovanni Ribisi) is just that. He may have had a name but it doesn't matter. He's the evil corporate guy. Plus we have the evil Marine guy (played by the also usually fantastic Stephen Lang). The corporate guy wants this mineral (I think it's a mineral) at any cost because it's worth a lot of money back on earth. The Marine wants to, in essence, just take out the Na'vi.

I'm being a bit flippant here mainly because these two from the moment they're on screen are exactly that. The evil corporate guy should have been rubbing his hands together while describing how much he wants this mineral thing. About as cliche as it gets. I mean really bad. He almost comes across as stupid which to get that powerful in a corporation (and at that young an age) requires some smarts. Even if all you want to do is make a lot more money even if it means wiping out an alien species. Cameron did this character ten times better in 'Aliens' with the character of Burke (played by Paul Reiser). He was smarmy and had something to hide and gain at the expense of others but his turn was still a bit surprising so we do hope he gets what's coming to him. Here the character is just not even close to being original. It's basically a stereotype of a stereotype. Stephen Lang gives a little more to his evil Marine early on before he turns into the typical military "let's just kill everything" cliche.

The Na'vi are these beings that live on this planet where this mineral is. They're basically Native Americans. Not like Native Americans. They are. Just because they're twice as tall as we are and all blue doesn't mean it's still not there. The way they act, react to things, and even talk. Even they're language sounds like it came out of 'Dances With Wolves'. Which is pretty much what this film is.

The film starts out pretty original. I was liking the film despite the cliche of the evil corporate guy (I mean the first shot of him is he's playing golf with one of those office golf things ... yeah). Once they land on Pandora is sort of where the film starts to lose interest. Naturally there are crazy animals everywhere and there is some encounters and chases with creatures. Then we're introduced to Neytiri who is a female (and daughter of the chief of the tribe) Na'vi. She saves Jake from some dog like creatures. Which I found a bit disturbing. The creatures were a little too much like dogs so as they were getting beaten and stabbed and the familiar sounds of dogs whimpering in pain was a bit much for me. She senses something special about Jake and brings him back to the tribe. Now his orders (by the evil Marine and the evil corporate guy) are to see if he can, over the course of three months, convince them to relocate while they come in and take this mineral. They didn't tell them they can build casinos though. Maybe that's in the director's cut. The problem is we've seen this story before. The discovering a different culture story which at first is either so different or possibly an enemy but then the discovery leads to an understanding and we've all learned something about each other. It's not that we've seen it before it's that we've seen it before and done much better. 'Dances With Wolves', 'Witness', 'The Last Samurai'. Those are off the top of my head. There is nothing different about the story. There is even the warrior Na'vi who doesn't like Jake but eventually respects him when the crap hits the fan. Just like in all of the other ones. I hate to say this but just like the evil guys the story is cliche. Like I said, it doesn't start off that way but it ends that way.

Another thing missing is the sense of wonder. We're taken to this planet with these beings, all kinds of creatures, and exotic plant life but it doesn't make you really go "wow". You just look at it. When the characters jump on these giant bird like creatures and ride them through the air there was never a sense of amazement. Remember the first time you saw the dinosaurs in 'Jurassic Park'? Hell, even the Cantina scene in 'Star Wars'? None of that is here. It looks great technically but there is no sense of wonderment.


I won't go crazy with this but it's worth mentioning. One thing is at the very start of the film we are flying over a misty forest. The voice over of Jake says,"I have dreams where I'm flying." Or at least something very close to that. Now later in the film when Jake gets on one of those birds and is flying through the air there was never that moment where he realizes he is flying like in his dream. Seemed kind of odd then to open the movie like that. I wanted that little moment. That might be why there is no wonder in the film because our characters never feel it

One big thing that I think really went a little too far. As if the relocation of the tribes and the deforestation and the stealing of natural resources from others (yes, I get it!!) wasn't enough there is a bizarre take on 9/11 where the very large sacred tree of the Na'vi is attacked and it eventually falls over and leaves ashes over everything. Very reminiscent of the World Trade Center coming down. This was just disturbing. Not in the way that was intended either. It felt more like exploitation. As it was happening I was thinking that I was reading too much into it. Maybe I am but I don't think so. Not cool.


Is 'Avatar' a bad film? No. I think seeing the film in 3-D, especially in IMAX, will make it an interesting experience for people. Maybe the 'Dances With Wolves' story doesn't bother you. Some stories I can watch over and over again in different ways. The you killed my brother/sister/cousin/wife revenge story will always work for me. So this kind of story may work for you. Some of the scenery is pretty amazing. The environments looks incredible. Unfortunately I was admiring them from a technical standpoint not from the wonder or awe standpoint. Cameron knows how to do action. You know what is going on and are never confused which I wish more filmmakers would follow. Shaky cam does not make action good. Follow Cameron's lead on this. As for the film on a whole though, for me, it just felt like a big cliche and while technically it's told well I didn't walk away with anything new nor did I feel like I was taken off to a distant world. At least not one that sparked that sense of wonder in me.

I love you James Cameron but I don't think I'll be seeing this again. However, I will be first in line for your next film. I know you're still a great storyteller with a lot more stories in you. You don't need to tell the ones others already have.